Nephews Of Venezuela First Lady Each Sentenced To 18 Years In Prison For Conspiring To Import Cocaine Into The United States
Efrain Antonio Campo Flores and Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas Conspired to Import over 800 Kilograms of Cocaine Into the United States
Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that EFRAIN ANTONIO CAMPO FLORES (“CAMPO FLORES”) and FRANQUI FRANCISCO FLORES DE FREITAS (“FLORES DE FREITAS”) was each sentenced to 216 months in prison for conspiring to import cocaine into the United States. A jury convicted CAMPO FLORES and FLORES DE FREITAS on November 18, 2016, following a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty, who imposed today’s sentences.
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “In part to fund an election campaign for the First Lady of Venezuela, Efrain Antonio Campo Flores and Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas devised a plan to work with the FARC terrorist organization to send literally tons of cocaine to the United States. At their trial last November, a unanimous jury saw their plot for what it was – a massive drug distribution conspiracy. With today’s sentencing, for participating in this brazen cocaine trafficking scheme, they will spend many years in an American prison.”
According to the evidence presented at trial and in connection with sentencing proceedings:
Beginning in August 2015, CAMPO FLORES and FLORES DE FREITAS worked with others in Venezuela, Mexico, Honduras, and elsewhere – including at least one member of Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (“FARC”), a designated foreign terrorist organization – in an effort to dispatch large loads of cocaine via private aircraft from premises controlled by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro at Simón Bolívar International Airport in Maiquetia, Venezuela. The defendants’ aunt, Cilia Flores, is the First lady of Venezuela, and during the investigation, CAMPO FLORES and FLORES DE FREITAS told individuals acting at the direction of the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) that they intended to use part of the proceeds of their drug trafficking to fund her December 2015 campaign for a position in the Venezuelan National Assembly. Electronic communications seized from the defendants’ phones also demonstrated, among other things, that CAMPO FLORES and FLORES DE FREITAS had engaged in a scheme to solicit bribes from debtors of Venezuela’s state-run oil and natural gas company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (“PDVSA”), in exchange for promises that a cousin, Carlos Erik Malpica-Flores, would cause PDVSA to approve and make payments on certain debts.
In early October 2015, an individual who was cooperating with the DEA in Honduras (“CW-1”) reported to the DEA that a Honduran national had introduced CW-1 to two Venezuelans – later identified as the defendants – who were interested in sending cocaine-laden aircraft with legitimate-seeming flight plans from Venezuela to Honduras. On October 3, 2015, CAMPO FLORES and FLORES DE FREITAS traveled to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, via private jet to meet with CW-1 to discuss sending hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from Simón Bolívar International Airport to Juan Manuel Gálvez International Airport in Roatan, Honduras. Two days after the meeting, CAMPO FLORES sent text messages to CW-1 that stated: “What I want is to start work because the electoral campaign is almost here and I always contribute . . . [w]ith money if you know what I mean that is why I want to start work.”
In late October 2015, two confidential sources working at the direction of the DEA (“CS-1” and “CS-2”) traveled to Caracas, Venezuela, to meet with the defendants. CS-1 purported to be the Mexican boss of the drug trafficking organization with which CW-1 was affiliated, and CS-2 purported to be an associate of CS-1. On October 23, 2015, during a recorded meeting with CS-1 and CS-2 regarding potential drug shipments, CAMPO FLORES explained: “[M]y mom,” i.e., Cilia Flores, “is running for the election and I need . . . $20 million. . . . In other words, the issue of the money . . . we need it by December .” During the same meeting, CAMPO FLORES reiterated: “[W]e want to take possession again of the . . . National Assembly and . . . several places with power.” In another recorded meeting in Caracas on October 26, 2015, CAMPO FLORES described the defendants’ plan to use some of the drug proceeds to bribe local Venezuelan officials who they anticipated would assist Cilia Flores in connection with the upcoming election. CAMPO FLORES also told CS-1 and CS-2 that there had been an “agreement” involving Venezuelan official Diosdado Cabello that allowed the defendants’ family to “control the oil completely in Venezuela.” At a third recorded meeting in Caracas, on October 27, 2015, CAMPO FLORES and FLORES DE FREITAS presented CS-1 and CS-2 with a kilogram of cocaine, referring to it as a “little animal,” so that they could test the quality of the drugs.
On November 6, 2015, FLORES DE FREITAS and a bodyguard traveled to Honduras via private jet in order to meet with individuals acting at the direction of the DEA as well as co-conspirators, including co-defendant Robert de Jesus Soto Garcia, to further discuss the cocaine shipment. During the recorded meeting, Soto Garcia indicated that numerous officials at the airport in Roatán, including military and police personnel, would participate in receiving the defendants’ drug load. FLORES DE FREITAS and Soto Garcia proceeded to make precise plans for the shipment during the meeting, and FLORES DE FREITAS agreed to send the first load of cocaine on November 15, 2015.
On November 10, 2015, CAMPO FLORES and FLORES DE FREITAS flew on a private jet to Haiti intending to pick up an initial multimillion-dollar payment for the cocaine. During a recorded meeting, CAMPO FLORES described the defendants’ connection to a “supposedly high ranked” “commander for the FARC,” and both defendants indicated that the first drug shipment, consisting of 800 kilograms, was prepared to be dispatched from Venezuela. Following the meeting, CAMPO FLORES and FLORES DE FREITAS were arrested by Haitian law enforcement officers, expelled from Haiti, and flown to Westchester County International Airport in White Plains, New York, on a DEA jet.
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In addition to the prison terms, CAMPO FLORES, 31, and FLORES DE FREITAS, 33, was each ordered to pay a fine of $50,000.
Mr. Kim praised the outstanding investigative work of the DEA’s Special Operations Division, Bilateral Investigations Unit, and New York Strike Force. Mr. Kim also thanked the DEA’s Port-au-Prince Country Office, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s National Targeting Center, DEA’s Airwing, the Government of the Republic of Haiti and the Haitian National Police, and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for their assistance.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emil J. Bove III and Brendan F. Quigley are in charge of the prosecution.
17-398 rrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emil J. Bove III and Brendan F. Quigley are in charge of the prosecution.